“As Christians we wish to contribute to resolving the ecological crisis which humanity is presently experiencing. In doing so, we must first rediscover in our own rich spiritual patrimony the deepest motivations for our concern for the care of creation.” Pope Francis
Pope Francis is inviting all Catholics to participate in an annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, beginning Sept. 1, 2015. The day offers individuals and communities “a precious opportunity to renew our personal participation in this vocation as custodians of creation.”
While on retreat several weeks ago my directress invited me to pray with Psalm 104. The metaphors used by the early Hebrew author to describe the mysteries of creation suddenly gave me much laughter. In verses 6 to 9 the writer describes how the oceans came to be in their present location. “The ocean covered it (the earth) like a garment;….. At your roar they (the water) took flight; at the sound of your thunder they fled. They (the oceans) rushed up the mountains, down the valleys to the place you had fixed for them. You set a limit they could not pass….” I was amused at how the early Hebrews understood creation. Maybe the poetic interpretation of the early Israelites’ sense that all of nature is regulated by God’s decree has more meaning today than we first realize.
Pope Francis in his recent encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home” wrote “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian existence”.
Each of us has an obligation to nurture our world. Does that mean buying less, and reusing more? Perhaps. Or perhaps we have not made sufficient efforts to conserve on our use of energy, whether by lowering air conditioning a degree or two, dressing warmer in the winter months to conserve on heat or turning off the motor of the car, while waiting for someone. Each of us can explore our own habits to discover ways we can be more ecologically sensitive.
If we fail in this challenge, the burden shifts more heavily on the poor, who have fewer alternatives. More and more of the resources of poorer nations are being depleted, whether in places such as cooper mines in Chile, or the rainforests of Brazil. The burden shifts to the planet itself. We hear researchers continually report about the heating up of our planet, reaching as far north to the Arctic region to individual regions throughout the world that continue to encounter unprecedented higher temperatures.
Our voices must be heard on national and local environmental issues, whether on the recent decision to open the Arctic region of Alaska to drilling for oil, or on efforts to protect our water for healthy living for all in the Great Lakes region. The grandeur and mystery of creation continues to give us great joy. How is God calling each of us to protect what God has given us? What one step can each of us take?
Pope Francis is calling us today and especially September 1 as World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation to pray for this pressing social issue. Let us in the words of Psalm 104, verse 24, praise God for the gift of creation, and seek God’s help. “How varied are your works, Lord! In wisdom you have wrought them all; the earth is full of your creation.”
Dorothy Fuchs, SND, was a high school teacher for twenty-nine years. When teaching World Culture, religion and U.S. History Sr. Dorothy tried to give her students the sense of the inherent dignity of people of all cultures, the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate events in history, and the realization of the gifts of our Catholic faith, a faith that teaches that all people are children of God. For fourteen years Sister Dorothy was a pastoral minister. For twelve if those years Sister served on the staff of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, where as staff liaison to the Social Concerns Committee she worked with the committee to promote awareness of current social justice.